Thousands of Palestinians performed prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the Eid al-Adha holiday on Thursday, a Palestinian Authority official said.
Worshipers began arriving in the early hours of Thursday morning, with around 50,000 Palestinians entering the holy site for the religious holiday, Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Islamic Waqf which runs Al-Aqsa, said.
Dozens of youths marched after prayers in support of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, raising the flags of Arab states and calling for protection of the holy site.
Some demonstrators wore t-shirts reading “Al-Aqsa is in danger” and called for Palestinian political unity.
Following prayers, Palestinians greeted each other and distributed gifts and candy to children for the holiday.
Worshipers also visited Islamic cemeteries after leaving the mosque.
Eid al-Adha — the Feast of Sacrifice — is one of the most important holidays in the Muslim calendar. It includes the pilgrimage to holy city of Mecca, known as “Haj”, which is one of the five pillars of Islam and supposed to be undertaken by every Muslim who can afford to do so.
Thursday’s Eid al-Adha celebrations came after Jerusalem was placed under tight security the day prior, with thousands of Israeli police deployed across Palestinian neighborhoods and checkpoints between the city and the West Bank closed, as is usual for Yom Kippur.
Israeli police announced Wednesday that all non-Muslim worship would be prevented at the Al-Aqsa compound on Thursday for the Muslim holiday, according to Israeli media.
The move came as an alleged attempt to defuse tensions in the occupied city, where Palestinians have been put under heavy restrictions for entrance to the holy site in recent weeks.
Next week, Jews celebrate Sukkot, a holiday that usually leads to an increase in visits to the Al-Aqsa compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount.
(Ma’an and agencies)